A receiving ship, is any vessel, that serves as a point of induction into the service for new recruits. Vessels were not built for the purpose of serving in this role, rather, vessels were appointed. This normally came at the end of a vessels combat career. As such, the vessels condition was such that it was best to remain in port, at anchor. Modifications to ships serving in this roll often included the removal of weapons, and the erectment of a housing structures on the main deck. Upon release from receiving duties most ships were either decommissioned or transferred to a states Naval Militia.
Records for the receiving ship were particularly modest and as such very little history is recorded of these once proud ships upon pressment into receiving duties. The actual medical duties of these ships usually was deemed space available. Based on the need, availability of local Naval Hospitals, and the availability of a medical staff. Each receiving ship played a different role as a hospital ship if any. Refits were done locally and discretionally, if at all. In addition to the receiving ships, store ships and guard ships often took on hospital ship, hospital tender, health ship, or quarantine duties as the need or opportunity surfaced.
A relatively large number of hospital or ambulance boats have been used by various commands, squadrons, bases, districts, and theaters through most times of conflict and peace. These boats were came in all shapes and sizes, and were picked for a variety of reasons, such as availability and need.
The PCER 484 Class is an armed rescue ship built on the hull of the PCE by the Pullman Standard Car Manufacturing Co. in Chicago Illinois. Of the 54 PCERs ordered, 13 were laid down, 12 were commissioned, and 5 saw service as rescue ships. The ships served three missions: damage control / firefighting; casualty treatment / evacuation; and patrol / guardship. Each ship's hospital was composed of 65 beds, a surgical suite, and X Ray. The medical department consisted of a staff of 11 doctors and hospital corpsmen. Ships designated PCER were 847 - 859. However, PCER 847 was redesignated before commissioning as a PCE. PCER 848-850 underwent conversion in Brisbane Australia. The refits converted their expanisve hospital into a communications center and the ships new mission was to serve as a signal ship for the US army landings in the Philippines and Japan. PCER 856 - 859 missed WWII and saw virtually no service as they were intended. The remaining ships of interest, PCER 851 - 855 have had a short but remarkable war record.
All five of these ships were ordered and cancelled before construction began 12 March 1943. This class was the replacement of the theoretical class referred to as APH (Auxiliary Personnel Transport Hospital). The five ships were named: USS Berkshire (APR 2), USS Burleigh (APR 3), USS Baxter (APR 4), USS Dutchess (APR 5), USS Douglas (APR 7).
Evacuation ships carried light armament, but did not meet the criteria established by the Geneva Conventions for the designation of Hospital Ship because they carried troops and sometimes arms in combination with injured. An example would be ferrying injured troops away from combat zones and troops and military supplies to combat zones. Most notably the Evacuation ships took part in returning troops at the end of the World War II.
Originally planned as Riverine Hospital Ships, the idea was scratched due to the need to bring the ships too close to shore, and required a dual support role. Of the Barracks Ships assigned to the U.S. Mobile Riverine Force, only the Colleton was specially refitted for the expanded hospital role and unofficially assigned the designation APBH (Auxiliary Propulsion Barracks Hospital).